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1850s NYC: Building a Global Metropolis, Infrastructure Expansion & Economic Surge

The 1850s marked a period of significant growth and transformation for New York City, paving the way for its rise as a global metropolis. During this decade, the city underwent both physical and cultural expansion, setting strong foundations for its future as a major urban center. A key development was the introduction of the Croton Aqueduct in 1842, which became fully operational in the 1850s. This innovation revolutionized the city’s water supply, dramatically improving public health and sanitation.

Architecturally, the 1850s saw the construction of structures that would symbolize New York City’s ambition and growth. This period was characterized by the city’s territorial expansion, notably the incorporation of Brooklyn, which later became a borough. This expansion coincided with a substantial influx of immigrants, bringing diverse cultures and significantly enriching the city’s social tapestry.

Economically, the 1850s were a time of booming commerce and industry for New York City. The growth of the shipping industry, propelled by the city’s strategic position and the earlier opening of the Erie Canal, solidified New York as a crucial hub for both national and international trade. Concurrently, the financial sector flourished, with Wall Street emerging as a cornerstone of American finance.

In summary, the 1850s were years of dynamic change and development for New York City. The advancements in infrastructure, architecture, and economy during this era were instrumental in defining the city’s identity. The legacy of the 1850s remains a pivotal chapter in New York City’s history, exemplifying its transformation into one of the world’s most influential and diverse urban centers.

1850’s Timeline of New York City’s History, USA

Discover NYC's 1850 transformation: A bustling port, cultural epicenter, and architectural marvel in this detailed aerial view

1850: Exploring NYC: A Historic Aerial Journey through Manhattan

Discover NYC's 1850 transformation: A bustling port, cultural epicenter, and architectural marvel in this detailed aerial view

Artist's rendering of The South Street Seaport, the first pier in the area was occupied in 1625 by the Dutch West India Company.

1850: Busy Scene at The South Street Seaport

Artist's rendering of The South Street Seaport, the first pier in the area was occupied in 1625 by the Dutch West India Company.

New York's oldest public park (formerly, there was a turf present for playing lawn bowling) which is also surrounded by the oldest fence in City.

1850: Bowling Green Park

New York's oldest public park (formerly, there was a turf present for playing lawn bowling) which is also surrounded by the oldest fence in City.

Print showing a street view from the park of St. Paul's Church, Barnum's Museum and the Astor House in New York City.

1850: Astor House Saint Pauls and Barnum

Print showing a street view from the park of St. Paul's Church, Barnum's Museum and the Astor House in New York City.

A photograph of Manhattan's City Hall. Taken by A.R. Waud in the winter of 1855.

1855: City Hall, Manhattan

A photograph of Manhattan's City Hall. Taken by A.R. Waud in the winter of 1855.

Lithograph illustration of Chatham Square, named after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham and Prime Minister of Great Britain before the American Revolution.

1858: Looking South from Chatham Square

Lithograph illustration of Chatham Square, named after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham and Prime Minister of Great Britain before the American Revolution.

An illustrative engraving of the original Market on 6th Avenue.

1857: Jefferson Market at 6th Avenue

An illustrative engraving of the original Market on 6th Avenue.

Painting of the Croton Reservoir at 42nd Street. Completed in 1842, it was the source of the city's drinking water until its demolition in the 1890s.

1850: The Croton Reservoir

Painting of the Croton Reservoir at 42nd Street. Completed in 1842, it was the source of the city's drinking water until its demolition in the 1890s.

A group gathered around the newly constructed monument of George Washington in Union Square, dedicated in 1856 the the oldest sculpture in any NYC Park.

1855: George Washington Monument at Union Square

A group gathered around the newly constructed monument of George Washington in Union Square, dedicated in 1856 the the oldest sculpture in any NYC Park.

Photograph of Broadway, looking north towards A.T. Stewart's Building and Grace Church.

1850: Grace Church

Photograph of Broadway, looking north towards A.T. Stewart's Building and Grace Church.

Watercolor Illustration of Broadway and Vesey Street Looking South.

1855: Broadway and Vesey Street Looking South

Watercolor Illustration of Broadway and Vesey Street Looking South.

Discover how NYC transformed into a fashion hub, from immigrant craftsmanship in the 1820s to the 1850s sewing machine revolution

1850: The Rise of New York City as a Fashion and Garment Industry Powerhouse: 1820s to 1850s"

Discover how NYC transformed into a fashion hub, from immigrant craftsmanship in the 1820s to the 1850s sewing machine revolution

The East side of Broadway and Broome Street looking North, capturing the hum and activity of downtown Manhattan during a cold winter.

1855: Broadway and Broome Street

The East side of Broadway and Broome Street looking North, capturing the hum and activity of downtown Manhattan during a cold winter.

View of a residential neighborhood along New York's Fifth Avenue. Rows of single-family brownstones with grand front stoops line the wide corridor.

1855: Brownstones on Fifth Avenue

View of a residential neighborhood along New York's Fifth Avenue. Rows of single-family brownstones with grand front stoops line the wide corridor.

A view of the St. Germain Hotel on the North East Corner of 5th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets (future site of The Flatiron Building).

1855: St. Germain Hotel on Fifth Avenue

A view of the St. Germain Hotel on the North East Corner of 5th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets (future site of The Flatiron Building).

Timeline of New York City: 1850-1860

1850: NYC's population soared to 550,394 from just 60,515 in 1800, a surge driven by industrialization, job creation, and a spike in immigration, with the city emerging as a key entry point for newcomers. This growth, fueled by economic opportunities and cultural diversity, marked the city's transformation into a bustling urban hub.

The urbanization of NYC, including city expansion, infrastructure improvements, and transportation development, further propelled this growth. Central Park's construction in 1858 epitomized this advancement, positioning the city as a future global metropolis and a cultural, economic, and social beacon.

1850: Opening in 1850 as Tripler's Hall, later Metropolitan Hall, the original Winter Garden Theatre quickly became a NYC cultural landmark with its diverse array of shows, including variety acts and Shakespearean plays. Despite a devastating 1854 fire leading to its reconstruction as The New York Theatre, the venue continually rose to prominence, resiliently mirroring NYC's dynamic theatrical vibrancy.

In contrast, the current Winter Garden Theatre's origins trace back to 1885, starting as the American Horse Exchange built by William C. Vanderbilt. Located at 50th Street and Broadway, it reflected the era's economic diversity. In 1896, it was transformed into the "American Theatre" by architect William Albert Swasey, later evolving into today's renowned Winter Garden Theatre. This progression from a commercial hub to a theatrical cornerstone showcases NYC's innovative urban adaptation and cultural evolution.

1850: New York City's rapid population growth, from about 97,000 in 1811 to over 500,000 in 1850, spurred the park movement, led by advocates like journalist William Cullen Bryant and landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing. Through editorials and influential writings, they highlighted the need for a large central park. This advocacy, coupled with Mayor Caleb S. Woodhull's emphasis on the city's lack of green spaces, made park creation a key political issue.

Responding to this demand, Mayor Ambrose C. Kingsland, in office since January 1851, proposed funding for a large park. By 1853, the site for Central Park was selected, kickstarting its development. More than a solution to overcrowding, Central Park enriched NYC's social, cultural, and environmental landscape, becoming a vital urban oasis.

1850: Launched in 1850 by Harper & Brothers in New York City, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, later Harper's Magazine, quickly became a distinguished American literary and cultural publication. Celebrated for its quality content, it provided a stage for prominent writers, significantly influencing American literature and culture. The magazine's varied content, from serialized novels to essays on domestic and international affairs, solidified its presence in literary circles and among a broad readership.

Harper's Magazine notably impacted New York City's history, reflecting and shaping its cultural and intellectual milieu. Central to the city's 19th-century publishing boom, it reinforced New York's standing as a national publishing and journalism hub. Serving as a historical chronicle, the magazine offered insights into evolving social, political, and cultural trends, embedding itself in the cultural fabric of both the city and the nation.

1850: John Wiley & Sons is founded, emerging as a pioneering publishing company in New York City and specializing in engineering and science. This focus distinguishes the firm in the publishing sector, marking its early influence in these academic fields.

John Wiley & Sons has significantly impacted New York City's literary and educational spheres. As a key provider of specialized academic and professional literature, it has become a vital resource for universities, professionals, and students, contributing to the city's intellectual growth. Moreover, its success has bolstered New York City's economy, underlining the city's prominence as a publishing hub and aiding its overall economic expansion.

1851: Elected as an alderman in 1851, William Marcy "Boss" Tweed became a key figure in Tammany Hall, NYC's Democratic political machine, in the late 1850s. By the mid-1860s, he led the "Tweed Ring," notorious for corrupt practices like vote-buying, judicial corruption, and embezzlement from city contracts. Tweed's era significantly impacted NYC's political scene with its pervasive corruption.

By mid-19th century, NYC had become the world's second-largest port after London, marking its rise in global trade. Simultaneously, the city's Jewish population grew to around 10,000, experiencing minimal anti-Semitism, indicative of NYC's tolerant atmosphere. Urban development saw Manhattan built up to 34th Street, with Broadway paved to Chambers Street, reflecting rapid infrastructural growth and the city's evolution into a major metropolitan hub.

1851: The New York and Erie Railroad, spanning 440 miles from Piermont to Dunkirk, revolutionized transportation, linking NYC with the Great Lakes. This engineering marvel, among the longest U.S. railroads then, was spearheaded by Daniel Drew, James Fisk, and John B. Jervis. Its launch marked a pivotal moment in national transport infrastructure development.

Beyond facilitating travel, this railroad significantly impacted trade and communication between the East Coast and Midwest, driving economic growth and enhancing regional connectivity. It fostered social and cultural integration across the U.S., promoting national unity. For NYC, it was a key development, reinforcing its status as a commercial center and strengthening ties with diverse regions.

1851: The New York and Hudson River Railroad launched, connecting NYC to Albany from its East Broadway terminal. This marked a significant boost in the city's transportation, enhancing travel efficiency and economic ties within New York State. The rail line's introduction was instrumental in NYC's mid-19th-century growth, expanding its connectivity and economic stature.

NYC's rail infrastructure evolved further when the New York Central Railroad opened the first Grand Central Terminal in 1871, located at the site of today's terminal. This centralization of rail services was a major step in streamlining city transport. The iconic current Grand Central Terminal, unveiled in 1913, replaced its predecessor, becoming a symbol of the city's architectural and cultural legacy.

1851: Founded on September 18, The New York Times, initially the New-York Daily Times, marked a new era in American journalism. Created by Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones, it aimed to counter the era's sensationalist journalism with objective, balanced reporting. This launch signified a commitment to rigorous journalistic standards, revolutionizing news delivery.

The New York Times significantly reshaped New York City's media scene, setting benchmarks for fact-based reporting and neutrality, influencing peer publications. Beyond journalism, its role in public opinion and historical documentation has been pivotal. As a successful business, it enhanced NYC's economic status, cementing the city's reputation as a media and commerce hub.

1851: Founded by Isaac Merritt Singer and Edward Clark, Singer & Co. in New York City revolutionized the sewing machine industry. Their innovation significantly enhanced garment production efficiency, boosting the city's economy and creating employment opportunities, notably for women. This development played a key role in reshaping global fashion manufacturing and retail.

Also established in 1851 was Kiehl's pharmacy in East Village, New York City. John Kiehl's venture initially offered a unique mix of pharmaceutical and herbal products. Kiehl's evolution into a prominent skin care and cosmetics brand mirrors New York City's diverse and dynamic commercial sector, showcasing its influence in the evolving personal care and beauty industry.

1852: The American Geographical Society (AGS) is founded and establishes its headquarters in New York City, emerging as a leading organization in geographic knowledge and research. The AGS has significantly influenced the city's academic and cultural landscape, attracting scholars, explorers, and geography enthusiasts, and thereby enriching New York's intellectual environment.

The AGS's presence in New York City has been multifaceted in its benefits. It has become a pivotal hub for geographical information, aiding sectors like education, government, and commerce, and elevating the city as a beacon of knowledge and innovation. Moreover, its global engagement and educational initiatives have connected New York to worldwide networks of geographic exploration and discourse, amplifying the city's international cultural and academic stature.

1853: Hosting the first U.S. World's Fair in 1853, New York City showcased global technological and industrial advancements at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. The Crystal Palace, a vast cast iron and glass structure in present-day Bryant Park, symbolized progress and innovation, attracting millions. Designed by Georg Carstensen and Charles Gildemeister, it bolstered New York's industrial prominence.

The Crystal Palace was pivotal in 1853 for Elisha Otis's safety elevator demo, enhancing building design, and in 1855 for Steinway & Sons' piano display, marking New York's manufacturing ascendancy. Despite its destruction by fire in 1858, the Palace left a lasting legacy, inspiring future exhibition venues globally and cementing New York City's role in cultural and technological showcases.

1853: Launched by Frank Queen, the New York Clipper, also known as The Clipper, quickly rose to prominence as a key sports and entertainment periodical in the U.S. Its extensive coverage, ranging from theater and circus to sports, notably baseball, played a significant role in enriching New York City's cultural landscape. The Clipper's comprehensive reporting on baseball particularly helped establish the sport's popularity nationwide, marking its influence in sports journalism.

The Clipper's contribution extended beyond journalism; it became an indispensable historical record of 19th-century sports and entertainment. Its success enhanced New York City's publishing industry, reinforcing the city's stature as a major center for journalism and publishing. This, in turn, contributed to the city's economic and cultural growth, reflecting its dynamic and evolving nature.

1853: Founded by Henry Engelhard Steinway, Steinway & Sons rapidly transformed New York City's cultural and industrial landscapes. Originating in a modest Manhattan loft, the company set new standards in piano craftsmanship, blending acoustic excellence with artistic expression. Steinway pianos, celebrated for their quality, became integral to New York's thriving musical scene, gracing concert halls, theaters, and homes, and symbolizing the city's cultural sophistication.

The rise of Steinway & Sons also marked significant economic and technological advancements for New York City. The company's growth created diverse job opportunities, bolstering the city's status as a hub of industrial ingenuity and manufacturing. Globally, Steinway's reputation for top-tier pianos elevated New York City's international standing in cultural and artistic innovation.

1853: The 1853 expansion of horse-drawn omnibus routes, building on their 1832 introduction, revolutionized urban transport. These omnibuses, first running from the Battery to Bleecker Street along Broadway, extended their reach citywide, meeting the increasing demand for efficient travel. Their widespread adoption offered a more reliable and comfortable alternative to traditional methods, marking a shift to communal transport.

The success of this service showcased its significant impact on the city's daily life.The omnibus's influence extended beyond transportation, boosting the city's socioeconomic growth. Expanded routes facilitated greater mobility for work, shopping, and leisure, shaping urban development. This period initiated a more organized, interconnected transport network, laying groundwork for innovations like streetcars and buses.

1853: Architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned Central Park as a natural haven within New York City's urban landscape. Their 1853 proposal aimed to transform a rocky, swampy area, including Seneca Village, into a green space for enhancing public health and well-being. The design featured harmonious landscapes, walking paths, and recreational zones. This undertaking was not just about creating a park; it involved reimagining urban land use and acknowledging the significance of green spaces in city life.

The construction of Central Park commenced soon after the proposal, leading to the displacement of Seneca Village residents. Opening in 1858, the park emerged as a beloved urban sanctuary and a milestone in urban planning. Its establishment played a pivotal role in NYC's history, symbolizing a shift in urban design philosophy and underscoring the importance of accessible natural areas for the community's welfare.

1853: New York City opened the United States' first public telegraph office, a groundbreaking development largely thanks to Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph system in the 1830s. This innovation, including Morse code, enabled fast long-distance message transmission, heralding a new communication era. The telegraph office's establishment allowed rapid cross-country messaging, revolutionizing communication practices.

This telegraph introduction profoundly impacted New York City's commerce and communication sectors, revolutionizing business transactions and information sharing, thus accelerating the city's evolution into a commercial and technological hub. Today, NYC remains a key player in communication technology, with industry leaders based there. Samuel Morse's legacy in communication technology endures, epitomizing his crucial role in modern telecommunication's genesis.

1854: The 1854 cholera epidemic in New York City, claiming approximately 2,509 lives, was a grim part of a global pandemic. Exacerbated by the city's poor sanitation, including inadequate sewage and contaminated water, the outbreak underscored urgent public health challenges in this rapidly growing metropolis.

This crisis spurred significant reforms in public health and urban infrastructure. Post-epidemic efforts focused on enhancing sanitation through better sewage systems and water supplies, pivotal in curbing future disease outbreaks. These changes not only improved health conditions but also laid the groundwork for modern public health practices in New York, marking a crucial turning point in the city's approach to healthcare and urban planning.

1854: Opening in 1854 at East 14th Street and Irving Place, Manhattan's 4,000-seat Academy of Music quickly became a cultural landmark in New York City. Praised for its acoustics but critiqued for design and seating by The New York Times, it became a hub for the city's elite, including the Belmonts, Beekmans, and Stuyvesants, under Mrs. Astor's patronage. The opera house's season was a key social event, with exclusive boxes symbolizing upper-class status.

The Academy's refusal to grant opera boxes to the 'nouveau riches,' such as the Vanderbilts, Morgans, and Goulds, catalyzed a cultural shift. In response, led by Alva Vanderbilt, the Metropolitan Opera House opened in 1883 at Broadway and 39th Street, eclipsing the Academy. Unable to compete, the Academy stopped opera presentations in 1886, switching to vaudeville before its 1926 demolition. This transition mirrored changes in New York City's social hierarchy and cultural landscape.

1854: Founded in 1854 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Republican Party quickly rose as a key political player, advocating against slavery expansion, and championing free soil, labor, and men. Its formation signaled a major shift in American politics amidst the intensifying slavery debate. Contrary to popular belief, the party's first national convention was held in Philadelphia in 1856, not New York City.

Despite not hosting its inaugural convention, New York City's political and social fabric was significantly influenced by the Republican Party's anti-slavery stance. As a political hub, the city engaged actively in the national slavery discourse. The party's evolution, from focusing on abolition to embracing conservative values and limited government, shaped New York's political scene and policy-making, reflecting its dynamic socio-political landscape.

1855: Fernando Wood, elected in 1854, commenced his first mayoral term in New York City in 1855, associated closely with Tammany Hall. His administration, spanning two non-consecutive terms from 1855 to 1858 and 1860 to 1862, was marked by substantial urban development and political controversies, reflective of mid-19th-century city politics.

Wood's tenure offers insights into New York City's complex political scene during a transformative period, including the Civil War's onset. His leadership was characterized by significant infrastructural growth and controversial issues of corruption and patronage, profoundly shaping the city's urban and socio-political landscape.

1856: Central Park's land acquisition started in 1856, officially establishing in 1857. That year, renowned landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were chosen to design this iconic green space. Simultaneously, NYC's Mayor Fernando Wood and Street Commissioner Joseph S. Taylor became its first Commissioners, steering its early development.

In the realm of public art, 1856 saw the unveiling of the equestrian statue of George Washington in Union Square, crafted by Henry Kirke Brown, marking a significant moment in the city's history. The following year, the Worth Monument, an obelisk honoring General William Jenkins Worth, was erected near Madison Square. These monuments symbolize the city's commitment to commemorating historical figures, enriching its cultural and historical fabric.

1855: Starting in 1855, Castle Garden, located at Manhattan's southern tip, became America's inaugural official immigration center. Managed by the State of New York, it functioned as the main entry point for millions of immigrants until its closure in 1890. This facility played a pivotal role in managing the influx of immigrants into New York City, shaping its demographic landscape.

Throughout the late 19th century, a network of state and private aid societies emerged to assist immigrants in New York City with housing, employment, and medical care. These collective efforts, though not under a singular city commission, significantly aided immigrant integration, contributing to the city's transformation into a multicultural metropolis and establishing its status as a global immigration hub.

1857: New York City witnessed the Police Riot in June 1857, a pivotal conflict between the Metropolitan Police, backed by the Republican state legislature, and the Municipal Police, aligned with Tammany Hall's Democrats. Peaking around June 16, this clash underscored deep-rooted political rivalries, as both forces engaged in violent street battles.

This riot profoundly influenced NYC's law enforcement and governance, exposing severe political corruption within police ranks and leading to the Municipal Police's dissolution. The Metropolitan Police subsequently became the primary policing authority, signifying a major shift in the city's law enforcement approach. This crucial event catalyzed reforms and laid the groundwork for modern policing in New York, marking a defining moment in its intricate political and social history.

1857: Beginning on July 4, the Dead Rabbits Riot erupted in Lower Manhattan's Five Points, a hub of immigrant life and poverty. This multi-day upheaval, marked by fierce clashes between the Dead Rabbits, an Irish-American gang, their rivals the Bowery Boys, and law enforcement, reflected the era's intense social strife in New York City.

This conflict exemplified the mid-19th century's social and economic challenges, highlighting immigration issues, ethnic tensions, and the working class's struggles. It emphasized the need for better conditions for immigrants and revealed flaws in municipal governance and policing. Significantly impacting New York City's methods of addressing social unrest and promoting community integration, the Dead Rabbits Riot became a pivotal chapter in the city's intricate historical tapestry.

1857: Founded by 13 architects, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in New York City aimed to elevate architectural standards and education in the U.S., marking a significant step in the field's professionalization. The AIA's inception was a pivotal moment, advancing architecture nationwide.

Its establishment profoundly impacted New York City's architectural scene. The AIA's emphasis on professional standards and architectural excellence significantly shaped the city's building designs. Additionally, its focus on educational and discourse initiatives reinforced New York City's position as a hub of architectural innovation and urban planning leadership, significantly influencing its iconic skyline and urban development.

1857: The Panic of 1857, beginning in August, was a major financial crisis with global repercussions, severely impacting New York City's economy. Triggered by the railroad industry's overexpansion, agricultural price drops, and major bank collapses, this crisis led to widespread unemployment, bank failures, and a significant decline in commodity prices in New York City, a pivotal financial center.

This economic turmoil prompted criticism of President James Buchanan's administration, particularly for insufficiently addressing the crisis's root causes. The downturn affected various sectors in New York City, notably the commodities market. Despite attempts to stabilize the financial system, the Panic of 1857 underscored the need for robust financial policies and regulations, profoundly influencing New York City's economic landscape and emphasizing the importance of financial stability.

1857: Formed in 1845, the NYPD was one of the earliest U.S. police forces to develop detective functions, a response to increasing organized crime in neighborhoods like Five Points, dominated by gangs such as the Dead Rabbits and the Bowery Boys. This era's rise in criminal activity drove advancements in police methods, particularly in investigative techniques, shaping modern law enforcement practices.

The NYPD's pioneering detective work significantly impacted law enforcement across rapidly growing New York City. Thomas F. Byrnes, a notable NYPD detective and later Police Chief, though often miscredited with the capture of "Napoleon of Crime" Adam Worth, was instrumental in refining investigative strategies. The department's evolution, especially in detective practices, influenced nationwide policing models, positioning the NYPD as a forerunner in urban law enforcement and crime investigation.

1858: Central Park's groundbreaking design, the "Greensward Plan" by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, was selected, revolutionizing urban park planning. This innovative design, chosen from 33 entries, featured separate circulation systems for pedestrians, horse riders, and vehicles, concealing commercial traffic in sunken roadways. Envisioned as a naturalistic urban retreat for all social classes, the park stretched 2.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide, becoming a green oasis in Manhattan.

Central Park's phased development began shortly after, with its first section, the Lake, opening in 1858. Over the next 15 years, the park's construction, initially estimated at $5 million, escalated to $14 million, reflecting its scale and ambition. Central Park's completion significantly enhanced New York City's environmental quality and social landscape, marking a key evolution in urban public space design.

1858: The Saturday Press, initiated in 1858 by Henry Clapp Jr., emerged as a transformative force in New York City's literary scene. Recognized for its bohemian and avant-garde content, this weekly newspaper rapidly gained prominence, providing a vital platform for progressive writers and poets like Walt Whitman, thereby reshaping contemporary literature.

Its debut significantly impacted New York City's cultural fabric, challenging literary conventions and nurturing a community of artists and intellectuals. The Saturday Press not only mirrored but actively influenced the dynamic cultural atmosphere of mid-19th century New York City, affirming its role as a center for artistic and intellectual progress, and enriching the city's cultural and historical legacy

1858: Founded in 1844 in Alabama by Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer Lehman, Lehman Brothers initially focused on cotton trading. By 1858, the firm expanded to New York City, adapting to the city's rising status as a financial epicenter. This move marked a strategic shift from commodities to a broader financial services scope, shaping the firm's future trajectory. The firm declared bankruptcy in 2008, marking a significant moment in global financial history and ending its 164-year legacy.

Lehman Brothers' expansion into New York City significantly influenced the city's economic landscape. Transitioning to a comprehensive financial services firm, it played a key role in establishing New York as a global financial hub. Beyond financial contributions, Lehman Brothers engaged in cultural and philanthropic activities, bolstering the city's growth and employment, and cementing its reputation as a major center for commerce and finance, until its downfall in 2008.

1858: Established to tackle urgent public health challenges like disease outbreaks and poor sanitation, the New York City Health Department's formation, commonly dated to 1858, was driven by physicians and public health advocates, including Dr. Stephen Smith, Dr. John Griscom, and Dr. John Swinburne. Their recognition of the need for a unified public health strategy was pivotal in addressing the city's health issues.

The department's mandate involved controlling communicable diseases, regulating public spaces, and enhancing hygiene and cleanliness. Through its significant efforts, it considerably reduced disease incidence and improved the overall health of the city's residents. These early actions by the Health Department laid the groundwork for contemporary public health practices, marking it as a crucial institution in ensuring the health and safety of New Yorkers, and setting a model for future public health initiatives.

1858: Founded on October 28, by Rowland Hussey Macy at 14th Street and 6th Avenue, Macy's quickly rose to prominence with its innovative retail strategies, setting the stage for a global retail empire. Contrary to popular belief, the store's inception was in 1858, not 1856, marking a significant chapter in American retail history.

Macy's growth and cultural impact escalated over the decades, symbolized by its iconic red star logo, derived from Macy's tattoo. The brand's influence extended to cultural traditions, notably initiating the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, a staple in NYC culture. The 1902 opening of its flagship store at Herald Square, one of the world's largest, solidified Macy's as a major force in the retail sector and a key element of NYC's rich cultural tapestry.

1859: Founded by Peter Cooper in 1859, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City broke new ground in higher education. It offered free, world-class education in art, architecture, and engineering to students regardless of their social status, wealth, gender, or race, pioneering inclusive access to education. This institution was among the first in the U.S. to embrace such a broad admissions policy, including both women and men of all races.

Cooper Union also emerged as a significant cultural and political venue, most notably with its large meeting room in the Foundation Building. This room hosted a critical 1860 speech by Abraham Lincoln, organized by the Young Men’s Republican Union, which greatly enhanced Lincoln's national profile and was instrumental in his election as President. This event exemplified Cooper Union's substantial impact on the U.S. political landscape and its role in shaping American history.

1859: The Weekly Anglo-African, initiated by Thomas Hamilton and his brother Robert in New York City in 1859, became a seminal publication for the African American community. It facilitated crucial discussions on abolition, civil rights, and culture, featuring insights from leading African American intellectuals and activists, thereby shaping discourse during the pre-Civil War era.

The magazine's impact extended beyond journalism, amplifying African American voices on pivotal issues and influencing social and political movements. Its focus on racial equality and civil rights significantly affected public opinion and contributed to New York City’s cultural richness. The Weekly Anglo-African underscored the city’s role as a hub for progressive thought and activism, making a lasting mark on its historical and cultural narrative.

1859: Edwin Drake's drilling of the first commercial oil well in 1859 near Titusville, Pennsylvania, initiated the modern petroleum industry, profoundly influencing the American economy. This event indirectly elevated New York City's status, not as a production hub but as a pivotal financial center for the burgeoning oil industry. The city facilitated key investments and transactions, playing a significant role in the industry's growth and development.

In 1870, John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil, which quickly became a dominant force in the oil sector through innovative strategies. Rockefeller's presence in New York City led to substantial philanthropic efforts and urban development, notably in landmarks like Rockefeller Center and Riverside Church. His influence extended beyond the oil industry, shaping the city's cultural and architectural landscape and cementing his legacy as a key figure in New York's history.

1859: Brooklyn's population soared from around 48,000 in 1840 to nearly 280,000 by 1859, triggering a pressing need for public parks to address the dense urban environment. Walt Whitman and others advocated for these green spaces, leading to the New York State Legislature's establishment of the Brooklyn Board of Park Commissioners in 1859, aimed at enhancing the city's recreational infrastructure.

The Board proposed Prospect Park in 1860, with its design and development assigned to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1865. This duo, celebrated for their Central Park creation, imparted their distinct landscape vision to Prospect Park, often regarded as a quintessential representation of their design ethos. This park not only met the city's demand for public spaces but also epitomized landscape architecture, significantly enriching Brooklyn's urban landscape.

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What Defines Explore NYC's Historical Journey

Welcome to "History101.NYC," an unparalleled online gallery featuring the beginnings of New York City, exquisitely restored by the experts at Fine Print New York. This exclusive collection vividly resurrects key historical moments, celebrating the city's rich history and diverse cultural heritage. Each meticulously crafted piece in our gallery offers a genuine look into NYC's past, embodying exceptional artistic skill and meticulous attention to detail.

Dive into our archives for a selection of exclusive, premium-quality art prints, encompassing a range of vintage photos, historical images, and rare lithographs unique to our site. These curated artworks narrate the dynamic evolution of the Big Apple, providing history enthusiasts and art collectors with a rare opportunity to own a part of NYC's illustrious legacy. Don't miss the chance to explore and acquire these captivating representations of New York City's historical journey.

Who Are the Founders of Discover the Creators

Joseph Gornail, a printer/photographer and founder of Fine Print New York, grew up in SoHo, Manhattan. Part of a long lineage of NYC printers, he learned the craft of printing as a teenager. Joseph's pivotal role in the New York printing industry began while working for Dolo Records/Stretch Armstrong in 1996. He then founded All City Marketing & Printing, and in 1999, co-founded the iconic streetwear brand "Orchard Street" with Benjamin Holloway and Greig Bennett. In 2004, Joseph established Fine Print NYC, a top-tier commercial printing company in New York. It launched with a major project for Nike, showcasing resilience and innovation in the digital age.

Steven Garcia, esteemed designer/illustrator and creative director at Fine Print New York, hails from Bushwick, Brooklyn. An alumnus of Fashion Industries High School and F.I.T., Steven's impressive career trajectory includes his tenure as a sought-after professional retoucher and storyboard artist at Saatchi & Saatchi in 1995. His entrepreneurial spirit led to the inception of ShinyDesign in 1998, later aligning with Fine Print in 2004 as their primary design partner. Steven's portfolio boasts collaborations with high-profile brands like Snapple, The Waldorf Astoria, and Sony, making him a prominent figure in New York's advertising and design landscape.

Together, Joseph & Steven spearhead the project, a groundbreaking digital archive since 2006. Their longstanding partnership dates back to 2001, when Joseph managed The New York City Urban Experience, an influential art gallery & museum at 85 South Street, and Steven curated, both contributing to New York City's vibrant cultural scene. This venue, owned by Mike Saes of the Nike Bridge Runners and True Yorkers, was a cornerstone for urban art and history enthusiasts.

What Time Periods, Eras, Decades of NYC History are available?

We cover a vast span of New York City's history, from its inception as New Amsterdam to the vibrant late 1980s. Our artists are actively working on expanding our collection to include photos from the 90s up to the present day.

Here's our current coverage list, showcasing the city's evolution:

Dutch Era: When New York Was New Amsterdam

NYC in the 1600s

Georgian Era

NYC in the 1700s • NYC from 1800 to 1840NYC in the 1840s • 

Victorian Era

NYC in the 1850s • NYC in the 1860s • NYC in the 1870s • NYC in the 1880s

Progressive Era

NYC in the 1890s • NYC from 1900 to 1905 • 1905 to 1910 • 1910 to 1915 • 

World War 1

NYC from 1915 to 1920

Art Deco

NYC from 1920 to 1925 • NYC from 1925 to 1930

Depression Era

NYC from 1930 to 1935 • NYC from 1935 to 1940

World War 2

NYC from 1940 to 1945

MidCentury Modern Era

NYC from 1945 to 1950 • 1950 to 1955 • 1955 to 1960 • 1960 to 1965 • 1965 to 1970

Energy Crisis

NYC from 1970 to 1975 • 1975 to 1980

Reagan Era

NYC from 1980 to 1985 • 1985 to 1990

Each period is richly represented through a variety of art mediums, offering a comprehensive and immersive historical journey of NYC. This chronological approach provides enthusiasts and scholars a unique lens into the city's architectural, cultural, and social developments.

How many historical Images are on this site?

There are currently 794 photos, lithographs, illustrations and maps on this site. Each one has been digitally restored and cleaned up by hand, which makes this collection truly unique.

Can I License Any of These Images?

Digital licenses are available for educational institutions (schools, universities, non-profit organizations). Please contact to discuss conditions for licensing.

NOTE: Any form of commercialization or redistribution of these images, either as tangible goods or third party licenses, is expressly forbidden.

Can I purchase prints of the historical images available on the site? is an ad-free and non-profit learning resource. We do not sell prints of these images. All operational costs are covered by Fine Print NYC

Do you accept admissions to this collection?

Absolutely! Feel free to send us an email with a preview of the image and we will let you know if it's a good fit for the archives.

How do you handle feedback or corrections regarding the historical context of images?

We welcome any feedback that you may have. If it proves to be historically accurate the changes will be reflected on the site shortly after our correspondence.

Do you collaborate with other historical societies or archives?

We have collaborated with NYC's Municipal Archives, The Tenemant Museum, Bronx Historical Society and a number of prominent NYC photographers to produce a series of limited edition postcards which free of charge, but only available via street distribution, primarily in Manhattan.

Do you also provide image restoration as a service for personal photos?

Yes, we can repair, restore and cleanup your old family photos, slides and negatives. You can either send us the digital files or the original photos to be professionally scanned.

Can you repair any type of image damage?

We can restore just about any level of damage or signs of aging, within reason. As long as most of the photo is intact we cn work with it. The one flaw we cannot fix is source material that is blurry. A poorly take photo can only be improved so much.


315 Madison Avenue • NYC 10017 • (212)619-5446 •


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History101.NYC is an ad-free learning resource available to the public at no charge.
This project is dedicated to exploring New York’s fascinating heritage through the restoration of vintage photographs and prints.